Now the Transfer Window is closed, is it all Doom and Gloom?

The transfer window has finally been closed before a Premier League season has started and it seems like this was a sane decision by the hierarchy that runs the league. Clubs are no longer shackled by the indecision that hangs over them whilst they panic to eradicate the issues that had plagued them for months on end. Manchester United set out their aims for players long before last season ended yet still found themselves desperately searching for a centre-back on Deadline Day. I have two questions regarding this: should a centre-back have been the main priority? And is it all Doom and Gloom now the window is closed?

Let’s start with the initial question, Manchester United have five centre-backs at the club, if you eliminate Eric Bailly who (when fully fit) is as colossal as any defender in the league, you’re left with Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. By the lack of transfer outgoings at Old Trafford, it was safe to say that United were more than covered in the defensive department. The problem is the competence of these five defenders.

Liability is a compliment when Smalling and Jones are having a bad day whilst Rojo has understandably struggled to recover from his long-term knee injury. That leaves Lindelof, who was extremely impressive at the World Cup for Sweden and looks destined to have a chance to impress with Eric Bailly at the heart of United’s defence. Of course, it would be naive to exclude David De Gea’s superhuman form in the Premier League last season. However, the Golden Glove award for de Gea and the second tightest defence in the Premiership suggested that a centre-back should not have been the main priority for Manchester United.

Having scored thirty-eight fewer goals than the eventual Premier League winners the aim for United should have been a change in mentality and adding creativity. They lack a natural right-winger and transitional speed on the ball. This often means that Juan Mata, a technically gifted player and number ten, is restricted on the right-wing. United lack balance with him out there and tend to struggle to find consistency when breaking teams down.

Ironically, consistency should come through varied attacking methods which Manchester United lack. The main aim should have been an attacking winger who could stretch the play and open the pitch up for the creative midfielders to hurt and dissect teams. Without that, a congested midfield will see teams put men behind the ball to frustrate United throughout games. However, it would be better to take a page out of Jose Mourinho’s book and focus on the positives and the team he has moving forward. When questioned about Luke Shaw, the BBC reported after Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Leicester City:

Luke’s game was very complete, even if I forget the goal. He made maybe one mistake defensively in the whole match and the linesman could have helped him with a free-kick. He just has to keep going.”

The full-backs were supposedly a weak link in Manchester United’s team leading into the season. Both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia are now thirty-three years old, it would be fair to say United needed reinforcements. Twenty-three-year-old Shaw has no choice but to grasp this opportunity to become the first team option and prove to Jose that this was not a position that needed filling, it is still early but judging from his performance in the Premier League opener, Shaw is willing to take on the challenge.

If he can cement down the left-back role then the defensive issue that may have plagued Jose Mourinho over the summer would somewhat subside. That takes me to the second question; is it all Doom and Gloom now the window is closed? As aforementioned, Jose Mourinho did not get all the players he wanted. In addition to this, the issue of an out-and-out right-sided attacking player was not addressed, however, it is time he focused on what he has.

Judging from his performance against Leicester City, he has added two assets to the United midfield. Andreas Pereira, who had only been seen playing on the wing or in a more advanced role for United or Valencia (last season) looked so comfortable in his deep-lying role. His use of possession was as efficient as anyone’s on the pitch but what impressed fans most was the tenacity in the tackle and ability to read the game. He should expect to see a lot of game time this season should he keep producing at the high level he did last night.

Not to forget Fred’s performance, having come off of just under two weeks training with the team he linked up beautifully with Pereira and Paul Pogba on plenty of occasions which would have given Jose Mourinho a lot more reasons to be positive. The form of Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata may be of a worry but it is important to remember that the precocious talent of Anthony Martial is still waiting to be unleashed onto the Premiership this season. Should Mourinho manage to get the best out of him then United’s attacking options become so much stronger.

Finally, there is Romelu Lukaku, who proved to be every bit of the leader he said he was at the World Cup. His return will shape an attack and identity that Mourinho will be keen to imprint as early as he can this season. With all being said, looking at the United squad as it is should not scare fans. They are yet to see young right-back Diogo Dalot and are covered in all positions. Maybe it is time to trust what they have and watch these players grow under a manager who is a proven winner in every country he has managed.

This time last year Jesse Lingard would have been a favourite to be out of the Old Trafford door by the summer of 2018, we are now in a position in which Manchester United are eagerly awaiting his return. Who from the 2018/19 squad will grasp their chance to make a name for themselves this season? And will they be able to take Manchester United one step further and recapture the Premier League Trophy? Patience, trust and nurturing will be key but you would be silly to write off Jose Mourinho’s men.

Written by Oscar Quaye

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